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Position by Position: The Bullpen

So with all the celebrations and controversies, we got a bit off track in our analysis of the team, and with only a week left, I'd like to finish it up. We have, in my mind, four areas left: the bullpen, the rotation, the manager and the front office. We'll start today with the bullpen.

First, though, it's worth going and reading the coverage of the final game at RFK. Metro writers Dave Fahrenthold and Paul Schwartzman talked to a bunch of fans, which was great. The gamer had some game details (and no, it wouldn't have been appropriate to run in the Philadelphia Inquirer) but also focused on RFK's closing. I missed mentioning Marc Fisher's column in the Sunday paper, but he had a great appreciation. Couple that with Boz's column last week and my story that kicked off the final homestand - regarding the players' feelings for the place - and it's a nice send-off. I had one last podcast from the old yard as well.

Second: Thanks to those of you who organized and attended the Nationals Journal tailgate. I was honored to be able to stop by and put some real faces with fake names.

OK, back to our breakdown. We already looked at Chad Cordero, way back when he blew that four-run lead in Colorado. But let's look at the other parts of the bullpen, which very well might be the strength of the team - and is almost unquestionably the deepest area.


Jon Rauch
Age: 28 (turns 29 Thursday)
Throws: Right
Contract: $455,000 in 2007; will be eligible for arbitration for first time this offseason
2007: 85 G, 8-4, 3.64 ERA, 84 IP, 10.2 base runners/9 innings, 69 strikeouts, 21 walks, 6 homers, 3 saves
Career: 204 G/11 starts, 20-15, 3.76 ERA, 266 IP, 11.1 base runners/9 innings, 219 strikeouts, 93 walks, 5 saves

Luis Ayala
Age: 29
Throws: Right
Contract: $1.3 million in 2007 (second year of two-year, $2.2 million deal); eligible for arbitration this offseason, free agent after 2008
2007: 41 G, 2-2, 3.40 ERA, 39-2/3 IP, 12.3 base runners/9 innings, 26 strikeouts, 12 walks, 5 HR, 0 saves
Career: 255 G, 26-24, 2.85 ERA, 272 IP, 10.9 base runners/9 innings, 175 strikeouts, 54 walks, 26 HR, 8 saves

Saul Rivera
Age: 29
Throws: Right
Contract: $380,000 in 2007; not eligible for arbitration until after 2009
2007: 81 G, 4-6, 3.65 ERA, 88-2/3 IP, 12.4 base runners/9 innings, 62 strikeouts, 39 walks, 1 HR, 3 saves
Career: 135 G, 7-6, 3.56 ERA, 149 IP, 13.5 base runners/9 innings, 103 strikeouts, 71 walks, 5 HR, 4 saves

Jesus Colome
Age: 29
Throws: Right
Contract: $815,000 in 2007; eligible for arbitration this offseason; free agent after 2009
2007: 57 G, 5-1, 3.39 ERA, 61 IP, 12.2 base runners/9 innings, 40 strikeouts, 26 walks, 5 HR, 1 save
Career: 243 G, 16-23, 4.47 ERA, 312 IP, 13.5 base runners/9 innings, 241 strikeouts, 167 walks, 39 HR, 6 saves

Arnie Munoz
Age: 25
Throws: Left
Contract: Pro-rated $380,000 in 2007; wouldn't be arbitration-eligible until after 2009 season
2007: 11 G, 0-0, 4.15 ERA, 4-1/3 IP, 20.8 base runners/9 innings, 3 strikeouts, 6 walks, 1 HR, 0 saves, left-handed hitters hitting .200 (1 for 5, 3 walks)
Career: 22 G, 0-1, 8.68 ERA, 18-2/3 IP, 20.3 base runners/9 innings, 14 strikeouts, 18 walks, 5 HR, 0 saves

Chris Schroder
Age: 29
Throws: Right
Contract: Pro-rated $380,000 in 2007; earliest could be eligible for arbitration is after 2009 season
2007: 35 G, 2-3, 3.30 ERA, 43-2/3 IP, 10.1 base runners/9 innings, 40 strikeouts, 14 walks, 2 HR, 0 saves
Career: 56 G, 2-5, 4.50 ERA, 72 IP, 10.9 base runners/9 innings, 79 strikeouts, 29 walks, 9 HR, 0 saves

Others: Jonathan Albaladejo, Winston Abreu, Mike Bacsik, Micah Bowie, Billy Traber, Ryan Wagner


Since he got the job as the manager of the Nationals, Manny Acta considered his bullpen his strength. It isn't infallible, and it has gone through little ruts, but overall, he has been proven correct. Even in the wobbly moments - see Chad Cordero yesterday, or most days - it has come through more often than not under conditions in which they're asked to pitch every day.

The Nationals' relievers have logged 566 innings - most in the National League. That's an average of just short of 3-2/3 innings a game. But their average of 12.24 base runners allowed/9 innings is fourth in the league. Their ERA of 3.75 is fifth in the NL. Not bad.

But because this year is about figuring out which pieces are usable for next year, let's build a bullpen for 2008 - assuming Cordero is back as the closer, which is no guarantee given that he could be bandied about as trade bait in the offseason. But that's a conversation for another time.

No-brainers: Rauch, Ayala
Rauch gets points for his unexpected durability - not only leading all of baseball with his 85 appearances this season, but his 170 appearances over the past two years - but for his willingness to pound the strike zone. He might get beat, but it's not usually going to be because he can't find the zone. His 21 walks in 84 innings this year is down from 36 walks in 91-1/3 last year. He also cut back on his homers: six this year, 13 in 2006.

Ayala has looked shaky recently, but keep in mind that he's still working his way back from that elbow reconstruction surgery. In general, guys are fully back two years after surgery. That'll be next spring training for him. He'll get more sink on his sinker and more consistent bite on his slider when fully healthy, and he'll be able to bounce back more easily. His ERA this season is a half run higher than it's been in any other season of his career. I'd count on him to drop below 3.00 again next year.

Promising: Rivera, Schroder, Colome
I almost put Rivera in the no-brainer category just because he seems to be available every time he is called upon, and because he has the longest sting of batters faced without allowing a homer in the majors this year - 340-something now. He also doesn't get killed by lefties (.247 against right-handed hitters/.261 against left). But for some reason, I'm a little uneasy about him. Call him 90 percent in for next year.

I'm intrigued by Schroder. His fastball is a sneaky 93, and if he gets his slider to where he can throw it whenever he wants - it's getting there - then he'll be downright dangerous. His arm action hides the ball from hitters a la Cordero, and his average of nearly a strikeout an inning shows he's hard to pick up. His numbers against right-handed hitters -- .190/.254/.238 - are tremendous.

Colome is arbitration-eligible and could earn some money. He is a frustratingly slow worker. But when he pitches instead of throws, he's good. "With Colome," Jose Rijo told me last week, "it's all mental. He can't be stupid about things. He has to be smart and pitch, not over-think things." His numbers would indicate that he deserves a chance next year if he can keep his focus.

What does that leave? They must find a left-handed specialist. Munoz hasn't been horrible, but he certainly hasn't proven he's a no-brainer for the job. Bacsik might be a decent swing man, but lefties are hitting .286 against him, so he doesn't seem like a specialist. Bowie never seems to be healthy, and though he's pitched well when he has been for the Nationals, he's no guarantee. I think they're more likely to go out and sign a left-handed specialist - Ray King, anyone? - than to come up with one from within.

Throw in Wagner, who could be back next year, and the interesting Albaladejo (1-1, 2.53 ERA, .167 opponents' average with a big, sturdy body) and there's some depth here.

Soooooooooooo, the real question: Is this where the Nationals should deal from in the offseason? Rauch, of course, was coveted by a few teams at the trade deadline. Cordero could obviously go. Can they find a team that needs enough help in the bullpen - and can't find it in the free agent market - that they would give up something useful to the Nationals?

I'll let you chew on that one. Chime in with more RFK stories if you like. I'm on the Acela right now, pulling into Penn Station at 11:45 a.m., and will get you lineups from Shea later in the afternoon. Have a great day.

By Barry Svrluga  |  September 24, 2007; 10:52 AM ET
 
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Next: Shawn Hill shut down, to have surgery on right elbow

Comments

OK.. off topic for the new post but Barry beat me to it and I wanted to see if anyone had comments...

Hello all. The family and I had a great time on Sunday. Aside from it being oppressively hot in 526 it was a beautiful afternoon and a great game.

I do have to say that after the past two days I have to a agree with other posters who previously made arguments for Philly fans as the most obnoxious in sports. The Mets fans earlier in the week were loud and obnoxious, but the Philly fans this weekend were downright hostile.

I was wondering how many of you took advantage of the "fan appreciation" sale in the merch stores this week? I have a theory to pose here about that:

Me being who I am, I can't take anything at face value and believe there are ulterior motives for most actions. I have asked several people I frequent games with why the FO would have a 50% off sale now? To which most people have replied one of two ways: 1) I'm searching for something that's not there - it was just what they said it was - fan appreciation, or 2) they don't want to move all that stuff to the new stadium.

To me it seems fishy. Why have all merch on sale? I can see having any items with reference to RFK on sale a la putting items with Zach Day's name/number on the clearance rack but not everything. And if you're moving a big league club with all the heavy equipment etc that goes along with it, how's a truck load of boxes of merch (made up mostly of tee shirts and hats) going to add unnecessarily to your burden?

My theory - they're changing something - and I think it's going to be big. I don't think it's the name (if I remember correctly when the Lerner's bought the team they made a statement that they wouldn't be changing the name but did say changing logos was a possibility). I think the curly W stays. I think the Nationals "shield" is out - they'll come up with a better logo. I think the lettering format (big "N" receding to small "o" expanding to big "S") is out.

I also think considering the amount of red in the merch stores that they may be switching to a blue primary instead.

It all fits too nicely with changing ballparks. If you're going to do it what better time? Remember, the Lerner's had nothing to do with picking the Nats current name, logos, colors. They're all holdovers from when MLB owned the team.

Just my theory. I've put a personal moratorium on purchasing Nats gear until I find out if it's true or not. Anyone agree/disagree?

Posted by: MKevin | September 24, 2007 11:17 AM | Report abuse

It's too late to change logos for next season. And they've had these same sales each of the last two years.

It really has more with them wanting to get rid of the overpriced stuff before having to find a place to store it all winter.

Posted by: Chris | September 24, 2007 11:24 AM | Report abuse

MKevin:
I hope. the red is overkill and there are too many teams with it. but, DCs colors are red and white. so i dont see that changing. as i stated before, i hope they go cursive. i purchase an away hat on opening day in '05, and ill purchase one next year - unless it is red. i look like bozo the clown with a red hat on. im on board with the moratorium.

bullpen:
I am willing to bet that one of the three gets traded. As we discussed before, how do they make trades with no names? My money is on Colome or Ayala. The rest are good parts and I see no need to change or alter the main ingredients. Maybe an addition of some spice, but it works - so leave it alone.


Posted by: theraph | September 24, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

"It's too late to change logos for next season"

Please elaborate. Is there a league enforced deadline I don't know about or is that opinion?

"And they've had these same sales each of the last two years."

That part I didn't know.

Posted by: MKevin | September 24, 2007 11:28 AM | Report abuse

"i purchase an away hat on opening day in '05, and ill purchase one next year - unless it is red. i look like bozo the clown with a red hat on."

Same here. I have several Nats lids but only in the blue base. I have one red one from opening day this year but it's as crisp now as the day I got it.

Posted by: MKevin | September 24, 2007 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Yes, there are league deadlines. They have to sign off on everything. Barry's even reported as such multiple times.

Posted by: Chris | September 24, 2007 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, dumping inventory at the end of a season is pretty standard. You want to introduce new products next year so that people that already own Nationals gear will want to buy MORE Nationals gear.

Also, at 50% off they are probably still making a profit on that junk.

LOVE the conspiracy-thinking, though! Good theory.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | September 24, 2007 11:36 AM | Report abuse

"Yes, there are league deadlines. They have to sign off on everything. Barry's even reported as such multiple times."

OK. Any idea what they are? Do they have to go public with that info or can teams do surprise announcements during the off-season? Just wondering if perhaps they have notified the league but not the public. It would make sense from a business perspective to keep that secret as long as possible to sell off as much of the old stock as possible.

Posted by: MKevin | September 24, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I am not a huge fan of the way Nationals is written in the graphic ('shield'), but I am pretty sure it is here to stay because they just put a HUGE version of it up at the new ballpark.

Posted by: GoNats | September 24, 2007 11:41 AM | Report abuse

"...they just put a HUGE version of it up at the new ballpark."

Oh well. That about kills it then. Thanks to Chris and GoNats for clearing it up for me though. I was going to be a difficult offseason not buying any new SWAG.

"The truth is out there."

Posted by: MKevin | September 24, 2007 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Hats-off to Manny for the Quote o' the Gamer:

"I'm like, 'Come on, Chief. The guy's 81 years old,' " Acta said. "He doesn't need to be put through this."

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | September 24, 2007 11:47 AM | Report abuse

I'd have to expect them to trade some bullpen parts this offseason. If Kasten is saying that they're not tapping into the overpriced free agent market, and that trade is the more likely route, I'd have to think the bullpen is the only area where we actually have a little bit of depth to trade with.

Posted by: G-town | September 24, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Looks like GoNats beat me to it, but yes, the "big N receding to small o expanding to big S" has already been put above where the new jumbotron is goig to be - apparently in huge red neon letters... just FYI.

Posted by: Matt | September 24, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Did anyone notice that there were only two real Nationals fan-initiated chants at the old ballpark last night?

Teddy and Wily Mo should be on all the promotional materials this winter I guess!

And lost in the game yesterday was Wily Mo getting in the game despite the injury and standing in there and again 'going-the-other-way' for a single. It didn't effect the game but it showed me again that this guy can be a key part of our team.

Posted by: GoNats | September 24, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the repost, but I commented just before this blog entry appeared.

Here's a photo of the "SHORT STILL STINKS" banners that were unfurled after the game. The wind had picked up, so this was the best one I took:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/aarongstock/1430754723/

Congrats on the final-RFK-game win against us obnoxious Phillies fans (I couldn't help myself and was obnoxious too, some). Now go sweep those Mets! Please?

Posted by: Aaron G. Stock | September 24, 2007 11:51 AM | Report abuse

The problem seems to be that Bowden wants closer value for Cordero and he doesn't have closer stuff. Bowden needs to be realistic about Cordero (not sure he has that in him) and package him as part of a deal--preferably to a team that needs bullpen help and has either a spare centerfielder or middle infielder with power. Let the other team make the decision where Cordero goes next spring. Betting on Rauch or Ayala to handle the closer role is risky, but I believe one of them could handle it as well as Cordero has done it.

Posted by: Tofu Dog | September 24, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Remember what happened to Hector "Found Money" Carasco? (Barry's nickname.) 2.04 ERA for the Nats in 2005. Even an emergency starter! JimBow let him go, and the Angels wondered whether they got the same man! Or Estaban Loaiza? Being paid 7.5 million in 2007 by Billy Bean to be put on waivers after JimBow said, "None, for me, thanks." And around the league JimBow's trade of Billy Bray and Gary Majewsky for Felipe Lopez and Austin Kearns is still considered proof of his brilliance. JimBow has proven that he has no equal when it comes to putting together a bullpen. If it was just luck, it wouldn't happen 3 years in a row.

Posted by: flynnie | September 24, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I don't know which topic to address first, the bullpen or the team store...

Bullpen:

Having just watched five games in person, I was frustrated with the bullpen... but only because I've come to expect the starter to get six innings, and then three relievers shutting down the opposition (not that it has happened that often this year, but it is the proper working formula, I think). That requires that the bullpen be above average, and ours is... but I also think it is a little tired. This is one area where the Nats could stand pat, and still be ahead of the game, and it is a good place to be... But at the same time, the Nats need some talent capital to trade this offseason. I actually think Rauch is our single best concentration of talent capital... but Cordero might have 36 or 37 saves this year, which is pretty good, when you consider all the ones he's blown, and being 12 or 13 games behind the 2005 pace, where he had 47... so he's not really all that far off his 2005 pace... Those of us who watch him every day get indigestion when he takes the mound... but I think it is a perception thing, rather than reality. My point is... either (but not both) is likely to be traded. If it is Cordero, Rauch becomes the closer, and if it is Rauch, Ayala becomes the 8th inning guy.

I like Schroeder, and I like Rivera. I am tepid about Bowie and Bascik (especially after Bascik's four pitch walk of Ryan Howard yesterday), but I am not done with them. Colome is fun when he's on. I haven't formed an opinion about Albaladejo yet... and Arnie Munoz has seemed a little overmatched... though Manny seems to like them both. As for Ray King... I would take a shot.

Unless something magic happens in the starting rotation, and we can get another two or three outs a game from the starters, the Nats better not trade away too much from the bullpen.

Merchandise:

It is just like cars... everything in the store is 2007 models, and the 2008 models are just around the corner. Some things stay the same -- My Nats winter jacket is the same this year as the one I got in 2005... but most of the stuff changes. Interestingly, you would think that the website would have the same stuff and the same sale, but it doesn't. Anyway, MKevin, having merchandise sitting around costs money, so you gotta move it. No conspiracy here...

Posted by: Wigi | September 24, 2007 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Nice moniker!

---

Tofu Dog

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 24, 2007 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Re. lefty specialist:

What am I, chopped liver?

Posted by: Mike Stanton | September 24, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Mike Stanton:

Your member benefits card keeps getting returned as undeliverable. Please contact with new address.

Posted by: AARP Membership Department | September 24, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Yes the bullpen is a strength and yes it seemss likely that they trade at least one or two of their surplus before next year. I fantasize that a Church, Cordero, and Lopez combination for a power hitter or high onbase outfielder might be possible. Not that I want any of those three to go, but you have to give to get. Cordero would be an upgrade at closer for at least 15 teams this winter - probably 20. So I don't think Bowden needs to temper his demands too much. We're not in a race to get rid of him. If Cordero can't be moved for fair value, keep him. He had a bad year and it was still pretty good. I will be sad to see Batista, Fick, and even Jimenez go, but I think to upgrade they will have to let at least two move on. Trading middle reliever like Colome or Rivera while their value is high makes some sense if you can pickup a better than avaerage backup. (I really want Fick back - he's fun to have around, but he's limited).

As for lefties, bring back King or another Free Agent to compliment Bowie.

With regard to merchandise, I love a good conspiracy theory, but teams had to submit uniform changes in July. No changes are expected. Block Letter Nationals stand high over the new Geico Stadium (kidding). Curly W lives on.

Really sad toi see Carpenter go. Please, please bring in a calm, restive voice. No urgent over hyped style announcers. It's a pastoral game. See you later ....

Posted by: NatBisquit | September 24, 2007 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Agree that Philly fans are by far the most obnoxious ones. Not so much on Sunday, because they were drowned out by a much larger crowd, and consigned to the upper 500s.

But Saturday night, they were just awful. Loud. Rude. Crashing sections...which only makes them louder and ruder.

Can't do much about the first two, but let's hope that section crashing is out with the new ballpark.

Posted by: Ashburn | September 24, 2007 12:32 PM | Report abuse

back to the deadlines piece...i believe the deadline for telling the commissioner changing uniforms has 2 weeks in it somewhere...like 2 weeks before the season ends or 2 weeks after the allstar break or something like that. i'll look it up.

and when it comes to relievers, randy st. claire has performed some magic. i say trade rauch (who is worth as much as the chief, i suppose, if they're both considered set up men) for a CF or middle infield prospect (i heard hu, the shortstop from LA, as a possibility around the deadline). relievers are like stocks and we need to sell high.

Posted by: hoagie | September 24, 2007 12:43 PM | Report abuse

>> We have, in my mind, four areas left: the bullpen, the rotation, the manager and the front office. <<

Barry, what about the team-sponsored entertainment? I would imagine folks have a thought or two about Screech, Clint, etc.

Such as hoping for a longer bungy chord for Screech. What an overdue -- um, untimely -- end that would have been.


Posted by: Ashburn | September 24, 2007 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the Screech sentiments, Auburn, but if memory serves, entertainment was covered in a previous thread (along with marketing generally).

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 24, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Barry,

Sorry to kill the horse after beating it so badly but come on......Coverage by the Post has been a huge issue.....NOT talking about the O's here so please understand that......The game story that seems written for Philly paper needs to be explained by someone....who better than you to us......How did that happen?

Posted by: like Barry hate the Post | September 24, 2007 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Apologies if this was already posted but remember - the current Nationals "shield" mirrors the roofline of RFK - which I'm pretty sure is not a coincidence.

Posted by: JMAC | September 24, 2007 1:28 PM | Report abuse

i think we need to take into consideration what makes a bullpen good. yes relievers must be effective, but you also need diversity. i think part of the reason chad has been hit over the last two years is that rauch, a great set up man, has too similar of stuff to chad. you need different arm angles, different action, different speeds. ayala would be a better 8th inning guy for chad because he has that wicked tailing fastball to righties. schroder and ryan wagner have the 3/4 angle that can mix it up to hitters and keep them guessing. arnie munoz and billy traber can be valuable, munoz has looked solid enough and traber has that zito curve.

we do have the right pieces, but i would like to see them arranged in a way that better sets up the next arm. use schroder to set up rauch, to set up ayala, to set up chief.

Posted by: love | September 24, 2007 1:31 PM | Report abuse

"...the current Nationals "shield" mirrors the roofline of RFK - which I'm pretty sure is not a coincidence."

Then perhaps there is some hope after all. If that's the case, and they've added only the "NationalS" portion to the new stadium, then maybe the "shield" is going away. That would be a welcome start IMO.

Posted by: MKevin | September 24, 2007 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Re: Merchandise

I have to laugh at the comment above regarding getting rid of the 2007 models. It is true for the most part, but they are also still trying to get rid of some 2005 models too! How about a Termell Sledge T-shirt for ya? Zach Day and Tony Armas shirts are also gracing the racks...

Posted by: Brewer | September 24, 2007 1:46 PM | Report abuse

"How about a Termell Sledge T-shirt for ya? Zach Day and Tony Armas shirts are also gracing the racks.."

Which could have been yours for the low low price of $11 on Monday or $5.50 starting Thursday! :-)

Posted by: MKevin | September 24, 2007 1:53 PM | Report abuse

"How about a Termell Sledge T-shirt for ya? Zach Day and Tony Armas shirts are also gracing the racks.."

This is actually the best way to get gear for kids. They don't care what name's on their stuff because they don't know the difference. We got my daughter a replica Guillen jersey for $6 last winter.

Posted by: MKevin | September 24, 2007 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Can we do a post solely dedicated to WaPo coverage of the team this season. Specifically, I would like to see comments by people recommending what they did or did not like about this paper's coverage of the team, and what changes they would recommend for the future.

Posted by: DC Nats Guy | September 24, 2007 2:00 PM | Report abuse

{crickets}

Posted by: WaPo comments thread | September 24, 2007 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Finally just getting into work (dang flat tire). Sorry I missed the NJ tailgate but traffic on 395 was ridiculous! I ended up snaking thru the city and ended up in Parking Lot 7. By that time it was too late to trek over to Lot 8 and still get into the stadium in time for the t-shirt and Senators tribute.

Juan-John: I think I ended up sitting next to you on Sunday. My wife and daughter and I had seats in Section 454 Row 2 (we gave each other high fives after the game). If that was indeed you, it was great talking with you (albeit briefly). Hope to meet up with you again in the not-to-distant future.

Bullpen: Keep Rauch, Rivera, Schroder, Albaladejo. Can keep Cordero and Ayala, but if able to get something worthwhile in return, then go ahead and trade them. Bascik and Munoz can go (or keep them in Columbus). It was nice having Colome this season, but I don't see him repeating his success next season (if past history repeats itself, he'll have an OFF year next year).

Posted by: e | September 24, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

If the Lerners were considering a logo/uniform change, they've missed the deadline by a lot. There's already a list out there of all the upcoming uniform changes and only Tampa is going with a wholesale change. (IIRC the Nationals were listed as adding a new ballpark patch)

As for the bullpen, I'm of the sabermetric belief that relievers tend to be streaky and that generally you don't get repeat performances. Rauch and Cordero are probably staying, but everyone else should be on the trading block.

Posted by: dgc | September 24, 2007 2:22 PM | Report abuse

The bullpen was the strength of the team this year. Looking at the list, it concerns me that they almost all seem to be 29, even Schroeder. They have almost all pitched a lot and they could all got old at the same time and soon.
That said, it also seems that it's easier to get bullpen help than other positions. Three of the four top relievers in 2005 were Ayala, Majewski, and Carasco and none were available at the beginning of this year and the team did fine.
I'd try to keep all of them to start and possibly use some as trade bait, especially Rauch, although I like him a lot. But Ayala was the set up man before he got hurt and did fine. He can replace Rauch as set up man. There may be decent value for him and you don't have the valuation problem of Cordero--whether he's valued as a closer or set up man. As frustrating as Cordero is (I was there yesterday), I'd keep him. He's younger and has the temperment to be a closer.

Posted by: KM | September 24, 2007 2:32 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that the Post's coverage of the team has become enough of an issue that I'll do a post (no pun) on it later in the week. I'll write an explanation about what we do and why we do it, how our coverage has evolved since 2005, and the different choices we make. Y'all can pick it apart.

Maybe Tuesday or Wednesday -- or maybe the off day?

Posted by: Barry Svrluga | September 24, 2007 2:36 PM | Report abuse

They've done it in the past for inventory reduction purposes, but another factor in the team store 50 percent off sale this year could be that Aramark also ran the souvenir stands and team store at RFK as well as the food and drink concessions -- and that contract was ending closing day. The selection was pretty picked over Sunday, and much of what was left was from as far back as 2005.

Now, as for the bullpen, I think that's where the highest profile traded Nationals will come from during the offseason. Will we still have Cordero, Rauch and Ayala next April? I think we'll have two of the three, and which one goes will depend on what team the deal is with and what the Nats are getting in return.

On the bench, I sadly agree with those who don't see a place for Robert Fick on next year's roster, nor will he bring much on the trade market. But, longer term, I can't help thinking that Robert Fick is going to be like Earl Weaver or Tommy Lasorda: a borderline player who proves to be a good-to-great manager.

Posted by: Section 502 (Good to see You All Sunday) | September 24, 2007 2:43 PM | Report abuse

"{crickets}"

Ooooh, good idea. Cricket and Post coverage in the same blog entry.

That way the three people who are fanatical about each subject can bore each other to tears in their own unfettered forum.

Posted by: joebleux | September 24, 2007 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, one request on the Post post, Barry, can it not include ANY team news, so that people who want to talk about the team can? I'll post my long promised results of word counts from August at last, too.

What's with the new conventional wisdom that we have to trade someone of importance to prove we're serious this off-season? I read that thing in the Nats360 blog and it appears that this was precisely the same strategy Bob Short used after the Senators had a miracle year.

Well, we've just had our own "miracle year" and now we're clamoring for Jim to pull a Short? No, thanks.

Here's what I propose: 2008 is still not the year. 2009 is the year. ALL (each and every) off season move must pass a simple test: Does this move prime the pump in our minors for a good 2009? If the answer is no, then no matter how cheaply you're snagging David Ortiz, he's not worth it.

To help spread the farm system love, I'm trying to come up with off-season slogans. So far:

Buy organic: invest in the Farm!
Nationals '09: Powered by two AAA batteries
Say N"O's": Take your high-priced deals up north!
Patience at the Plate: A stitch in time saves DC's Nine

Any other suggestions?

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | September 24, 2007 3:08 PM | Report abuse

It's been said before, but they have to be prepared with another closer if the new park plays small and Chief's fly ball outs become balls that fly out (and if that happens, his trade value probably won't diminish much, since other teams apparently don't think of him as a closer, anyway, so keep a fan favorite--unless the offer is too good to pass up).
People will get hurt--expect it, prepare for it. I think they have just enough bullpen (after getting Ray King back, and counting the young guys who can stay loose in AAA) now. There is no such thing as "surplus pitching."
The fact that this group is more interested in discussing conspiracy theories about souvenir closeouts and WaPo coverage than the bullpen probably implies some satisfaction with the status quo, no?

Posted by: cevans (after moving) | September 24, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Ummm, "don't quit your day job" ?

(can we still get snarky here, or will Stan spank?)
------
Any other suggestions?
Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | September 24, 2007 03:08 PM

Posted by: cevans | September 24, 2007 3:14 PM | Report abuse

506 - You sound just like Stan Kasten, who watched the Braves lose by neglecting their farm system and paying top dollar for over-the-hill free agents. Stan is just not going to do it. The Nats have a winning team in the Dominican and are heating up in single A, where their pitching propects are already coveted by other GM's. They signed all their high school prospects. Stan says that we are going to think that he's an idiot for two years, which includes next year.

Posted by: flynnie | September 24, 2007 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Researching the "when do you have to file a uniform change with MLB" question, I found this 2006 item about the pending uniform redesign of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

According to this story from a writer for mlb.com, "To make a change, Major League Baseball requires notice by May 31 of the preceding season."

The full article is at:
http://tampabay.devilrays.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060530&content_id=1479374&vkey=news_tb&fext=.jsp&c_id=tb

Posted by: Section 502 (Formerly) | September 24, 2007 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Barry, I think a post on the Post coverage would be welcomed. Off day makes some sense, although you also might want to strike while the iron is hot given the Philly Phirestorm over the weekend.

Team store sales: I agree with the posters who have pointed out that the font will remain the same given that it's now up in huge letters at the new park. However I recall Stan (or somebody from the front office) saying awhile back that they would be incorporating more blue into the uniforms. I'm certainly in favor of that because at the moment it's hard to distinguish the Nats from the Phils, the Cards, and the Commies, not to mention the Angels. Time for something new.

Bullpen -- I think you have to listen to offers for everybody. If you can get a player at a "need" position (top of the order cf/2b/ss in my mind) then you do the deal and find another reliever elsewhere. After the elite closers, relief pitchers are relievers for a reason and often don't repeat their stats consistently from year to year.

How about this: Make a deal with the D-Rays for Carl Crawford, then sign Luis Castillo to play second.

Lineup:

1. Crawford, cf
2. Castillo, 2b
3. Zimmerman, 3b
4. Young/Johnson, 1b
5. Pena, lf
6. Kearns, cf
7. Guzman/Lopez, ss
8. Schneider/Flores, c

Posted by: Bob L. Head | September 24, 2007 3:18 PM | Report abuse

'Ummm, "don't quit your day job" ?'

Too late! I just did to sign a 3-year multi-million dollar deal to do promotions for the Washington Nationals! At least you should find consolation in the fact that my slogans will be an improvement...

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | September 24, 2007 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Certainly the bullpen is the place where the Nats have a little extra to give up. My confusion sits in the fact that the Nats need to add a big bat to their line up in order to make improvement. Does anyone really think any of these relievers will get a big bat in return? I think any trade involving these guys would be for either a good prospect or another 6 or 7 hitter - something they have plenty of. Those who are saying Cordero, Lopez, and Church for a big bat, I just don't see it. Why would a GM trade one really good player for a solid but not dominant reliever, an attitude problem, and a 4th OF?

JimBo should hang onto all these guys unless Chad and Big John returns a really good prospect. I heard AZ was willing to three way with the Nats and the Mets at the dead line - Carlos Quentin to DC, Cordero to NYC, and Heilman to AZ. Minaya wouldn't do it. AZ liked Heilman more than Chad because he makes about $3 million less. AZ didn't want to add Chad's contract, so they wouldn't do it straight up. That's about what Chad would bring in a trade, a strong unproven prospect - not a hitter the caliber of Aaron Rowand or someone like that. Any trade they make should be with 2009 or 2010 in mind, not '08. They are far away folks. Let's be patient and enjoy the building process.

Again I'm sorry I couldn't make the pre-game cook out. It sounded like fun. I coach my daughter's softball team, and we had a game yesterday. If anyone's interested I'm happy to break down that roster too. We also need a big bat and better starting pitching.

Posted by: #4 | September 24, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

"Make a deal with the D-Rays for Carl Crawford"

You better have a whole lot of me laying around to make that one work.

Posted by: Magic Beans | September 24, 2007 3:26 PM | Report abuse

"200X 9" (with "8" crossed out)

"Keep your shirt on -- you got it half price, didn't you?"

"The Nats will be fine, by 2009."
(tip of the cap to Mr. Cub)

"I am NOT a liar!" (with picture of Stan making double-V sign)

"Bring 'em up, throw 'em in, try 'em out, move 'em on! -- RAW GUYS!" (bonus if you get a Frankie Lane sound-alike to do the promo)


Posted by: cevans | September 24, 2007 3:27 PM | Report abuse

And the sad thing is, that would be true.
Well, at least now we know where that payroll increase will come from.

-------
Too late! I just did to sign a 3-year multi-million dollar deal to do promotions for the Washington Nationals! At least you should find consolation in the fact that my slogans will be an improvement...
Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | September 24, 2007 03:22 PM

Posted by: cevans | September 24, 2007 3:31 PM | Report abuse

OK, how about Delmon Young? Big brother could keep him in line, I think.

-------
"Make a deal with the D-Rays for Carl Crawford"
You better have a whole lot of me laying around to make that one work.
Posted by: Magic Beans | September 24, 2007 03:26 PM

Posted by: cevans (after moving) | September 24, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Magic Beans, I agree, but the D-Rays have depth in the outfield and Crawford (and Dukes) have been the subject of trade rumors. This one is from an ESPN story about the 2006 Winter Meetings:

"One recent rumor had Crawford headed to the White Sox in a deal for Brandon McCarthy. The Devil Rays say there's zero chance of that happening. The Rays don't have to move Crawford because: (1) he's a 25-year-old monster player and (2) he's so gosh-darned affordable. Crawford will make $9.25 million over the next two seasons. Then the Devil Rays have two option years worth a total of $18.25 million.
That's why GM Andrew Friedman can afford to ask for the moon. If the Dodgers make a call on Crawford, they'll probably have to consider Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton as a starting point. The Devil Rays want to stop being perceived as a feeder system for more affluent clubs, and Crawford is as good a place as any to finally draw the line. In time, that could change. If Evan Longoria and Reid Brignac are ready to man the left side of the infield in 2008, the Rays could move B.J. Upton to left field. They already have Rocco Baldelli in center and Delmon Young in right, and Friedman envisions Elijah Dukes -- the talented problem child who's tearing up the Arizona Fall League -- amassing 400 or so at-bats in the outfield and at DH in Tampa Bay next season. But that's too many "ifs" for such a bold move. In a year or two, the Devil Rays might be more amenable to moving Crawford. At the moment they have no compelling reason to do so."

Posted by: Bob L. Head | September 24, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"How 'ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm, after they've seen DC ..."

Posted by: Bob L. Head | September 24, 2007 3:40 PM | Report abuse

"2009 -- Wait til NATS year!"

Posted by: cevans | September 24, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse

506: 1 out of 4 aint bad (but I'd take out the "two"):

Nationals '09: Powered by AAA batteries

I'm okay with the status quo, except for one, whom ya'll should know how I feel about by now, even if he goes at setup-guy price. He'll get CREAMED in the new park and his value will go down anyway.

I'd be nervous about letting too many bullpen guys go just yet. I think of Ayala and Rivera in the same terms, and I see either one of them being paired with Chief for a good AA-level prospect (one that could be ready mid-08 or ST 09) and the other staying here with Rauch as closer. I just like Ayala better because he always smiles and waves, but he's also WAY more expensive than Rivera.

We REALLY needed the bullpen all season while Manny was auditioning every kid on the block. When was the last time the bullpen came in in the 7th or later? Or even the 6th inning for that matter?

I'd feel better waiting to trade bullpen guys until after we can answer a few more questions about starters and OBP/OPS guys, i.e. if/when Detwiler might come up for a double mocha latte (whole milk--he needs the calories), if Patterson's telling the truth about his surgery and the condition of his arm, if Johnson and Guzman return to form, etc. Answer some of those questions first so we won't be SO dependent on the bullpen, then I think we can let one or two bullpen guys go.

Posted by: NatsNut | September 24, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Okay, okay, so I'm getting a probably much deserved ribbing over my sloganeering. But surely there's someone else out there who agrees with me that the obsession with getting another big bat to compete for the wild card next year is distracting us from the real goal of competing for the wild card the next ten years? Hendo?

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | September 24, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

506 (BM), I really liked the "Powered by AAA Batteries", also the Organic one.

Historical note: the Senators had a slogan, "Off the floor in '64", and sure enough, finished in 9th (of 10) place that year.

Also, two guys sitting next to me yesterday were referring to which Nats had "taken the pledge", specifically referring to who appeared in the promo video, then were urging on Albaladejo by encouraging him to "take the pledge".

Posted by: Traveler | September 24, 2007 3:55 PM | Report abuse

im not under the delusion that our spare parts would magically turn into other teams major parts.

im also not a fan of "big bats". if anyone cares, the big bad MVP from up north has 195 K's with 6 games left? with respect to "i hate walks" i might change my name to "i hate strikeouts". its counterproductive and infuriating. CHOKE UP WITH TWO STRIKES!!!!!!!!! WMP might just be the guy that everyone wants to get. give him a chance, i say.

the stadium itself will account for a power surge for our middle of the order guys (seriously, how could it not??). i think they should hold tight, see who gets hurt, who slumps, who plays out of their mind. the redskins always are the Champions of the Offseason. and we all know where that goes.

Posted by: theraph | September 24, 2007 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Re: the Merch...502 is absolutely correct. ARAmark had the souvenir concession. If you think about what they carried and the lack of helpfulness, on the part of many of their employees, you will have a microcosm of why they were not contracted for the concession at the new Ballyard.

Comments about the bullpen when I don't have a deadline.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 24, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse

A farm is a good thing, when it begins and ends with itself, and does not need a salary, or a shop, to eke it out.

As the farmer casts into the ground the finest ears of his grain, the time will come when we too shall hold nothing back, but shall eagerly convert more than we now possess into means and powers, when we shall be willing to sow the sun and the moon for seeds.

Posted by: Ralph Waldo Emerson | September 24, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse

"Juan-John: I think I ended up sitting next to you on Sunday. My wife and daughter and I had seats in Section 454 Row 2 (we gave each other high fives after the game). If that was indeed you, it was great talking with you (albeit briefly). Hope to meet up with you again in the not-to-distant future."

----

Hey e! It was great to meet y'all too. I especially enjoyed your calm and measured response to Manny's subbing Church in for Maxwell with the bases loaded in the 6th inning. ;-)

Posted by: Juan-John | September 24, 2007 4:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm very, very disappointed to miss out on Sunday's tailgate activities. But it sounds as if y'all closed RFK in style. Perhaps a spring training tailgate will be in order as well (we could start at the Panera!) I'm looking forward to the hot stove with this group.

Posted by: lowcountrynatsfan | September 24, 2007 4:44 PM | Report abuse

"He's killing me, I tell ya. Killing me!"

Hope my daughter wasn't too much of a distraction for ya yesterday. She's normally very good at the ball games, but with the switch to a noon start, that was smack dab in the middle of her nap time (and mine too).

-------

Hey e! It was great to meet y'all too. I especially enjoyed your calm and measured response to Manny's subbing Church in for Maxwell with the bases loaded in the 6th inning. ;-)

Posted by: Juan-John | September 24, 2007 04:32 PM

Posted by: e | September 24, 2007 4:54 PM | Report abuse

What a beautiful day for a baseball game. Thanks for such a cool tailgate, hendo, natsfan1a, jennx and all others. It was so good to put faces to monikers. Glad you were able to stop by, Barry -- it was good to meet you as well. Hendo -- hope you don't have any scratches on that beautiful Miata! Liked the quick pic post, JuanJohn.

Wigi and SCNatsFan get the awards for travelling the furthest. NatsNut -- it wasn't me who got the shirt-off-their-back -- I only wish!

Posted by: nats fan in annandale | September 24, 2007 4:59 PM | Report abuse

And, of course, there was a game. I enjoyed overwhelming the Phoul Phanz, but Cardiac Cordero gave me quite a scare there at the end.

My very first baseball game was when my Dad took me to a Phillies-Mets game at the old Connie Mack stadium in Philly. We rooted for the Mets that day, and they lost. I'm so glad the Nats gave me a much better memory for this one!

Posted by: nats fan in annandale | September 24, 2007 5:02 PM | Report abuse

The best thing we could do for the bullpen is to have better starting pitching.

Posted by: Ashburn | September 24, 2007 5:11 PM | Report abuse

"Can we do a post solely dedicated to WaPo coverage of the team this season. Specifically, I would like to see comments by people recommending what they did or did not like about this paper's coverage of the team, and what changes they would recommend for the future.
Posted by: DC Nats Guy | September 24, 2007 02:00 PM "

This is a little provincial on my part, but if you wanted to see exemplary coverage of the Nats' Sunday extravaganza, you could have perused today's (Monday) Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg). Big full-color front page photo plus more photos and 2 or 3 stories inside. Steve DeShazo (sports editor) has done a great job all year with the Nats, and the FL-S's coverage should be a model for how to do it right.

On the bullpen: if it's weakened in trades, then how can the Nats improve on their W-L record? No starters capable of six innings, and a weak batting order. If I were making decisions (glad I'm not) I would go very slowly in trading away any bullpen talent in favor of a reputed big bopper (none of whom are available anyway).

Posted by: Johnr(VA) | September 24, 2007 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Ah, a day at work to catch up on lots that I put off while going to 4 games in 5 days last week.

So, I'm thrilled Barry posted about the relief corps, which has certainly been the strength of this team. I'm still a huge Ayala fan, and think his arm will be ready for 2008 to be special. I think Schroder is talented and has the repertoire to let go of Rauch or Cordero for the right piece(s).

I totally agree that Rauch-Ayala-Cordero is a better 7-8-9 due to varying pitching styles (although then you're more likely to have a batter see Rauch in the 7th, then Cordero in the 9th, which foils that argument - especially when Cordero faces 7 or 8 batters in the 9th).

And, the main reason I'm glad for the Bullpen, is the chance to link to my FAVORITE Nats-blog-posting of the 2007 season, courtesy of BallWonk, right around the anniversary of Katrina. I'd LOVE to see Ray King back in DC next year - this picture makes me laugh out loud every time!!! Come back, Burger King! (and, bring extra, 'specially for John in Mpls)

http://www.ball-wonk.com/archives/2007/08/bullpen-no-floodwall.html

Posted by: ShawNatsFan | September 24, 2007 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for addressing Post coverage.

Please address whatever that game story over the weekend was.......take your time, I will have an open mind but it better be a good excuse....maybe you could say the Philly's had beer and the Nats did not so the writer was just following his gut...yea that might work.......

Posted by: Make it good Barry! | September 24, 2007 5:16 PM | Report abuse

And, since I was at that game when Ayala and Burger King shut the door on bases-loaded-no-outs to squeak out unscathed, I was hoping for more of the same on Thursday night when Ayala and Munoz got in trouble. Opening the door for Guantanamera Albaladejo to open the floodgates.

Munoz looks promising, and it's clear Manny thinks a lot of him, but he's no Burger King. I know the lefty I'd want protecting the 9th Ward!

Posted by: ShawNatsFan | September 24, 2007 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Dumb question: In the context used above which seems to mean some kind of event, what the heck is a "hot stove"? Is this something I missed out on growing up in California?

BTW, in a fit of extreme guilt over throwing away some of the uneaten food yesterday, I donated what was left of that delicious chocolate chip bundt cake and the leftover bagels to an event staff guy who was happy to take them. :)

Posted by: JennX | September 24, 2007 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and in case you haven't seen this series of clips for the new stadia coming on board around the majors, here it is:

http://www.mlb.com/mlb/fan_forum/cisco/

Notice how the Nats are noticeably absent of any names for highlights except for a reference to Zimm at the end. Gonna miss Carp's voice around NatsLand.

I'm still utterly amazed that the Twins will be playing only outdoors at home, and pity the teams that go play there in April (or even October, for that matter). It'll be interesting if their stats hurt for those cold weather games!

Posted by: ShawNatsFan | September 24, 2007 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Couldn't come to the tailgate party as I was with a bunch of people. Great idea - I hope it's repeated, and I'd enjoy getting to meet some of the people whose postings I've been reading here for the past couple months.

Barry's latest nickname for Chad ("the human heartburn that is Cordero") is priceless (and so true). I also really like Cardiac Cordero, the moniker thought up by some people here on the Journal.

Great day at the ballpark yesterday. Nice sendoff. Nice to get the win. Very glad I was in a section with all Nats fans. And, yes, a thousand times, the Phillies Phans are most Phoul. They stunk up the joint. I remember quotes from former Redskins players, in the 80s and 90s no less, about how bad Philadelphia fans were back then, even. It was great to have the team and the crowd drown them out.

Posted by: samantha7 | September 24, 2007 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Jenn-X, hey, there's no such thing as a stupid question. You may have heard the term "hot stove" used in the context of off-season discussions of baseball seasons past and future (I suppose the derivation is that at one time such discussions might have taken place around a hot stove). At the tailgate, I also raised the possibility of having a hot stove meeting of NJ bloggers in the off-season.

Brilliant idea to donate the leftovers to the event staff guy. I was feeling guilty about that, too!

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 24, 2007 5:32 PM | Report abuse

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Hot Stove League is a baseball-related term, referring to the off-season. Therefore, it is not actually a "league", but the term instead calls up images of baseball fans, anxious for the start of the new season, gathering around a hot stove during the cold winter months discussing their favorite baseball teams. The term has also come to refer to the wave of off-season player transactions (trades, re-signings, free agency, etc.) that occur between seasons. Since most free agent signings and trades occur during the off-season, this time of significant player transactions (including rumors and speculation about possible trades), is often referred to as the "Hot Stove League".

Posted by: Hot Stove | September 24, 2007 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Is that Ronnie Belliard I see in Fox's great new promo of October Ball narrated by George Will? Yes, an exultant world champion 2d baseman Ronnie Belliar in a cardinals uniform running off the field after winning game 5 of last years' World Series! Oh, how the Cardinals wish they had him back!

Posted by: flynnie | September 24, 2007 5:55 PM | Report abuse

I'm inclined to agree with JohnR here.

---

On the bullpen: if it's weakened in trades, then how can the Nats improve on their W-L record? No starters capable of six innings, and a weak batting order. If I were making decisions (glad I'm not) I would go very slowly in trading away any bullpen talent in favor of a reputed big bopper (none of whom are available anyway).

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 24, 2007 6:02 PM | Report abuse

New post.

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 24, 2007 6:03 PM | Report abuse

New post -- with news. Not good news, either.

Posted by: Barry Svrluga | September 24, 2007 6:11 PM | Report abuse

"Hope my daughter wasn't too much of a distraction for ya yesterday. She's normally very good at the ball games, but with the switch to a noon start, that was smack dab in the middle of her nap time (and mine too)."

-------

Not at ALL! Sweet and precocious is all I saw. :-)

Posted by: Juan-John | September 24, 2007 7:10 PM | Report abuse

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